There are still 16 months before the next election, so it’s kind of premature to start looking at President Obama’s place in history. But, for argument’s sake, if his presidency were to end today, would he not already be one of the most accomplished presidents in American history? Forget whether you like him or not, just take into account what he’s done: the newly announced Iran nuclear deal, Dodd-Frank Act, executive action on immigration, clean energy bill, New START, Trans Pacific Partnership, Cuba, Osama Bin-Laden, and of course the big one, the Affordable Care Act, or as the opposition so derisively called it, Obamacare. The jokes on them, though, since Obamacare will likely be spoken in the same breath as Social Security and Medicare in the future as the foundational social programs of this country.
On the universal healthcare point, it was Teddy Roosevelt who first attempted to achieve national healthcare. Yes, not just any Republican, but the Rough Riding, speak softly and carry a big stick, Nobel Peace prize-winning Republican badass himself. For more than a century, some notable big names – the aforementioned TR, his cousin FDR, Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Clinton – all failed to pass a national healthcare platform. Obama did so in a more divisive and acrimonious environment than any of his predecessors.
Says College of William and Mary political scientist Chris Howard: “FDR and LBJ had lots of fellow Democrats in Congress when they pushed for the New Deal and Great Society. Their opponents, in and out of government, were not nearly as ideological or hostile as the ones facing Obama. The fact that the ACA exists at all is pretty remarkable.”
Dylan Matthews, writing for Vox.com, adds: “When you consider the law in the context of 100 years of progressive activism, and in the grand scheme of American history, it starts to look less like a moderate reform and more like an epochal achievement, on the order of FDR’s passage of Social Security, or LBJ’s Great Society programs.”
Obamacare has been great for the headlines, both for its supporters and detractors. However, it’s not just this one accomplishment that will define or shape Obama’s legacy. Lest we forget, he inherited two wars in the Middle East and what’s come to be referred to as The Great Recession, and look at what he’s done to alter and transform those landscapes.
Still, Obama’s administration has been from the start and seemingly will continue to be blamed for 1) things he was not responsible or 2) for not doing enough. Sure, the guy could have done more or taken a harder stance on certain issues. But, hey, he’s got a year and a half left to do something about that before the movers come to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.